We are all familiar with the curse of Hello, which descends on
celebrities after they appear on its pages in exchange for lovely loot
But has the curse been extended to Shredded Wheat? I ask of course
because no sooner had Glen Hoddle and his wholesome family appeared
spooning down that strange dry stringy stuff then reality broke in.
Shortly after England’s draw against Italy, when he should have been
basking in the sun of national gratitude, and have been of prime
commercial value in persuading kids to pester their parents for packets
of untampered grain, he announced he was separating from his wife.
Cereal Partners, Shredded Wheat’s makers, decided to withdraw the
campaign but in the process have opened up a potential debate on the
value and attendant dangers of celebrity endorsements and merchandising
deals. There is nothing new in using stars provided they match your
product: after all, Dennis Compton used to advertise Brylcreem. And
Shredded Wheat has a long tradition of attracting top sports stars
including Ian Botham and Jack Charlton to promote its cereal on
As a classic but staid product competing with sugar-laden junk, it may
have reasoned that it has no alternative but to soldier on down this
road, (I don’t understand why more cereal makers don’t take lessons from
McDonald’s on how to market to kids with improved packet toys and
But, as one advertising executive pointed out to me, the Hoddle ad was,
even by those standards, extremely old-fashioned. It was a simple star
vehicle, and had nothing else: not even a hint of football
Yet the use of stars has been on a roll this year - (at least before the
current dispute with Equity sapped some of its power). It has been
impossible to open a paper without reading of deals: The Spice Girls
continue to display a touching commercial consistency in their
willingness to back the lightweight: Channel 5, Walker’s Crisps, and now
guest appearances on the wrappers of Cadbury chocolate bars.
Yet advertisers keen to cash in on celebrity endorsement could learn
buckets from the BBC’s hugely appealing Perfect Day campaign, a
commercial plug masquerading as a public service message. This is
because it approaches its task with a degree of slyness: using a
beautiful song to disarm, while piling on the message that so many stars
care so deeply about the BBC they are happy to sing just one line.
Likewise, anyone contemplating a charity or socially valuable campaign
should watch the interesting Teacher Training Agency cinema ads which
use Tony Blair, David Seaman etc to praise unknown teachers who nurtured
them. It’s a shame that National Libraries Week has made the books its
stars rather than roping in some human ones. Surely footballers read?